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Quickies: The Garden of Darkness

Sometimes I don’t feel like I have enough to say about a book to do a full review. But I still want to say something. So, this is why I’ve made ‘Quickies’ :)

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The Garden of Darkness by Gillian Murray Kendall (June 2014, Ravenstone) ARC received with thanks through NetGalley

 

This book has a great title! And a great cover!

Unfortunately, I didn’t feel this same about the content.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate it. I just didn’t love it like I wanted to. And I think that’s the worst, when you feel let down a little by a book.

The concept is necessarily new, but I like that because it intrigued me, I wanted to see how it could ‘make new’.

Clare was a good character. I enjoyed the parts that focused more on her journey though the story. She didn’t totally lose it, she manned up and got on, but I also appreciated that she didn’t lose her femininity either. If that makes sense?

I thought the parts focusing on ‘Master’ were creative and an interesting addition.

The story was good enough, but I found myself drifting…

…It’s hard to explain, I was engaged, but I wasn’t. There was action, but I think maybe the way it was written didn’t excite my brain or imagination in the ways its used to.

A good read. I still feel fairly neutral about it. But it was good!

A non-committal 3 out of 5.

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Review: Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover

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Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover – Borrowed from my local library

When Tate Collins meets airline pilot Miles Archer, she knows it isn’t love at first sight. They wouldn’t even go so far as to consider themselves friends. The only thing Tate and Miles have in common is an undeniable mutual attraction. Once their desires are out in the open, they realize they have the perfect set-up. He doesn’t want love, she doesn’t have time for love, so that just leaves the sex. Their arrangement could be surprisingly seamless, as long as Tate can stick to the only two rules Miles has for her. They think they can handle it, but realize almost immediately they can’t handle it at all.

I think I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not wholly compatible with Colleen Hoover’s writing style. And I feel ok admitting that.

There are some stylistic things that I always pick up on. For instance, there seems to be a tendency to repeat words within the same actions/sentences and it always sticks out to me. It jars me out of the story and ruins the mood.

That said, I always enjoy the story itself, whichever title that may be. She has a brilliant way of building tension and hitting the reader with conflict and action. I admire that very much.

So, Ugly Love, what worked for me?

Miles – I like his character. Yeah, sometimes he’s a bit of a prat, and I think he should seriously count his chickens (is that the right phrase?) that Tate is with him, but I like him. A lot.

Cap – Old Cap. I love him. I want a book about the story he tells Tate. I would swoon for Cap. Heh heh.

General story – It had real pace and I was easily sucked in. I couldn’t not keep reading.

What didn’t work for me?

Tate – Needs a backbone. I think because she is so aware of the situation, it makes it harder for me to dismiss her acceptance of it. She willingly goes along with the crock of bullshit she’s being fed from Miles. I think he should have been made to work for it more. I didn’t have the same issues that I’ve seen others have, I mean, she does know what she’s letting herself in for. I think my problem was that surely, surely, a girl like her would come to her senses quicker.

We’re going flying, babe – The pilot thing just wasn’t working for me. To be fair, it wasn’t really a thing for me until the end. The end was cringy for me. I dunno. It just felt like it was creeping into Mills and Boon territory.

Tate – Again. LOL! I wanted her to really take charge of him. He did a great job on her (oh how hard this is to describe this without getting x-rated) but I wanted her to take care of him… Take control… Just… Yeah. If you’ve read this book, you know what I mean, right? :s

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There were some really lovely scenes in this book. Some parts were so cute! And others were freakin’ hawt! But there were also some aspects that just weren’t working for me. It was a good read. Easy to get into, easy to keep on with. Can’t complain too much really. Fans of Hoover will love it. For sure.

An easy 3 out of 5.

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Review: Point of Retreat by Colleen Hoover

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Point of Retreat (Slammed #2) by Colleen Hoover – Borrowed from my local library

“Layken and Will have managed to overcome the obstacles that threatened to destroy their love, proving that they are destined for one another. What they are about to learn, however, is that the things that have brought them together may be the very things that ruin their connection forever…
Layken is left second-guessing the relationship whilst Will is jumping over hurdles to prove his love for her. What the young lovers discover about themselves along this journey may change their entire world and the lives of those who depend upon them the most.”

I’m starting think that Hoover’s writing style might not be a perfect ‘fit’ for me. That said, that woman knows how to keep the story wheels turning! Man alive those were some hefty plot twists and turns eh?

So, what worked for me?

Wil – I warmed up to his character much more in this book. Partly because it’s from his POV, but also because he seemed less.. creepy? No. ‘Creepy’ isn’t the right word. I dunno. There was just something that didn’t quite click for me in the last book, but it was all systems go in this one.

Whoa – The ending to this book is a real car wreck ;) And for once, that’s a good thing. As a reader I was like ‘whoa! No way!’

Age – I was more comfortable with this book’s age. That sounds weird, but ‘Slammed’ felt like it was dancing in a weird limbo between YA and NA and I wasn’t sure which way it would be better off heading in. But I suppose these characters are only going to get older, so NA is definitely the better option.

The jar – This was a beautiful addition. A little sentimental. But a lovely idea.

Sex – I like how this is handled. I think it manages to balance both sides of it; on the one hand it’s a really big deal, but on the other hand, it doesn’t have to be all that a relationship hinges on. But man, the anticipation was killing me!

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What didn’t work for me?

Narrative style – There’s still something almost clumsy about the writing that makes me want to reach for my red pen. And I think that’s because I so wanted to become lost in the story. I was connected to the characters, but the writing itself I found jarring in places. Repetitions of words in the same paragraphs, lots of telling, redundant dialogue… I dunno. I just felt like the book as a whole could do with a good tightening up. And then it would really be able to shine.

Sex – As much as I admire how the issue itself was handled, I felt that in the end it was treated much like it might have been in Pre 19th Century literature. With a trusty ‘…’ I mean, the ending? We’d been building up to this moment for the whole freaking book and then all we’re told is that it they pass the point of retreat (now waggle your eyebrows, chuckle, and imagine your dirtiest little fantasy). But I don’t want to simply ‘imagine’ it. I want to ‘read’ it. Is that not ok?

Who in the what? – Embarrassing confession. I read this book approximately 20 days after reading Slammed… and I couldn’t remember who any of the secondary characters were. In the first few pages I was desperately wracking my brain: Eddie, Gavin, Kel, Caulder.. who? It took me a little while to find that sense of relief. ‘I know who these people are! Phew!’

Vaughn – Really? This part I found completely blown out of proportion. Wil was a bit of a doofus. But my GOSH didn’t Layken overreact? Holy pants on fire! If it had been more of a misunderstanding, like if Vaughn had literally thrown herself on Wil, then maybe I might have found it more believable. As it was, it felt too obvious that the only reason that poor, vapid woman was dragged into this story was to facilitate a break up.

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I thought this book had some really touching moments. It also had some proper toe-curling ‘omg’ moments and I reveled in those. But there was a lot of un-muchness to the narrative where nothing was happening and I struggled with those pages. All in all it’s a light read, much like the first, and easy to jump into. It doesn’t ask anything of the reader, so if you’re in the mood for something to guide through a nice story, then this is definitely for you.

And let’s face it, sometimes we need that kind of book, true?

A happy 3 out of 5 stars. I like Hoover’s books. I don’t love them. But I’ll continue to read them without a second thought. Does that sound weird? :s

(still hate this cover set.. blegh)

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ARC: Under My Skin by Shawntelle Madison

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Under My Skin by Shawntelle Madison (expected December 2014) received with thanks from NetGalley

Everyone wants to either be a member of the Guild or work for them. Little does the populace know that the Guild hides sinister secrets…

For Tate Sullivan, life in her small, coastal town is far from glamorous. The affluent lives of the Guild members and their servants isn’t something she has ever wanted. But all sixteen year-olds must take a simple test, and Tate’s result thrusts her into the Guild’s world, one where they hide horrible plans for those they select. Tate must fight the relentless General Dagon for control of her mind, body, and soul to keep the one precious thing she has always taken for granted: herself.

Her only ally is the same handsome boy she is pitted against in General Dagon’s deadly game. Quinn desires nothing more than to end the life of General Dagon who has taken over Tate’s mind. While romance blooms between Tate and Quinn, General Dagon plots to eventually take over Tate’s body, and love might end before it even begins.

I love the concept of this. The thought of it… the horror of it. It’s chilling!

So, what worked for me?

Quinn – I really enjoyed his character, he had the potential to be up there with the best book boyfriends. I do like a man who knows his way around a blade, who’s got the danger of death about him. A bit like Valek (Snyder’s Poison Study), he had the makings of being totally swoon-worthy. However, I was stopped short from salivating, but only because he doesn’t get enough page time. I want to love him, and I think I could. But I finished this book with an ache of longing.. and feeling safely in the ‘like’ zone.

General Dagon – I love this character too. He’s a nasty piece of work, and the things he makes Tate do, especially to her family, it’s downright despicable! It makes for great reading though. I mean, the main antagonist is always there, she can never truly escape him until she destroys him.

Concept – Like I said above, the overall concept of this book is quite chilling. And disturbing to imagine happening to yourself. Complete loss of control of your mind and body but you’re still able to bear witness to it all? Yikes! I think Zoe experienced the worst of this. *shudders*

Pace – Quick, quick, quick! It didn’t let up, and that made it hard to put down!

World building – This wasn’t over extensive. And for me, that worked. I think a story can get too bogged down in building the world and the culture of it, but here there is just enough to understand and get pulled in. Does that make sense? Lols.

What didn’t work for me?

The logistics – I think that when you start using aspects of the mind, and this kind of body snatching, the mechanics of it can become a bit tricky. I didn’t wholly understand why Tate couldn’t stay where she was safe, why she had to go back into dangerous territory. And why certain methods couldn’t be used at other times? It’s a really small niggle, because in general I couldn’t complain. Like I said, it’s a tricky one to take on methinks and Madison does it well.

Love, love, love – I like that Quinn and Tate have this kind of connection. But at the same time, as mentioned above, I didn’t feel that Quinn had that much page time, and so I found it more difficult to believe in the deep feelings they obviously have for each other. I would have liked there to have been more stolen moments somehow.

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I thought this book presented something refreshing and exciting. At first, there are glimmers of other books, similar in this kind of genre, like Reckoning by Kerry Wilkinson. I was reminded of that title in particular. But it’s as I say, mere ‘glimmers’, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

 

As a series it has so much potential; I hope to see much more of Quinn, and actually, I hope Dagon makes a cameo at least. I loved the glamour of it, contrasted against the dirty underbelly of the culture. The classic battle between a corrupt rule and a ‘resistance’ was well played here too. It’s a stellar read, and I cannot wait to read how the story continues.

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Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

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The Diviners by Libba Bray

Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City–and she is pos-i-toot-ly thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult–also known as “The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies.”

When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. And through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer–if he doesn’t catch her first.

Tis the season to shit your pants.

Yeh?

Not this time. Not with this book.

I was disappointed because I’ve seen it knocking around, especially as the Halloween season approached, and I was ready to be freaked. But I felt nothing. Not even a shiver.

What wasn’t working for me?

Ouija – I wish we could ban ouija boards from books. Or at least, ban them from teen parties. It makes me sigh and then seriously consider dropping that book hard on its head. There must be some other way to have your character contact the spirit world other than cracking out the dusty plank of wood and pushing a glass around the alphabet.

Voice – well isn’t it just darling? Actually, I found it all too much. It was like listening to the American characters from Downton Abby… on speed. I found it tiresome. Not for me.

It’s all about the facts – I gotta say, Bray knows her shit when it comes to this era. But all I needed was a beaded flapper dress and I would have been there. I was drowning in the detail! I get it. We’re in the 20s. *tick box*

Love triangle – this is flimsy at best. But it’s there. And I didn’t really ‘feel’ any of it. Sowwy.

Evie – Is a dolt. I wanted to like her, and she had some moments that made me get on her side, and then she’d do something stupid and we be back to square one again.

Horror? – I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t creeped out. I didn’t even go ‘euw’. *sigh* Maybe I’m a tough nut to crack..

What WAS working for me?

POV – This surprised me. Normally I will insta-hate anything that has multiple POVs going on, but actually, it really worked for me in this book. It gave me a break from Evie, and even though Naughty John was a bit of a ‘stock bad dude’ I enjoyed his parts the most!

Sam – I love his character. To be fair, I like Jericho too. But there is something more compelling about Sam. He has more *swoon* potential. Mmm hmm.

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This isn’t my first outing with Bray’s writing, and ultimately I don’t think we’re a fit. Author-reader relationship is dysfunctional. And sometimes that happens. I always feel like there are moments where I’m being ‘talked at’ rather than being told a story. Like when you answer the door to some smiling zealots and they say nice things, start talking to you about stuff… and then suddenly you’re having a heated discourse about the coming day of judgement..

Shut the door.

Close the book.

Feel a little sad… And move on.

I gave this book 2 out of 5 stars because as much as I tried, I just wasn’t feeling it.

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Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

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Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (2012, Orion) Borrowed from my local library

“Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.”

It took me far too long to jump on the band wagon of this series.

But on the plus side, I don’t have to wait impatiently for the release of the next book, eh?

So, what worked for me?

The Darkling – So, shoot me. He’s serious FAF material right there. And such an interesting character too! I like a ‘bad guy’ that has more than just ‘I’m evil’ working for him. And I did NOT see that coming. *looks pointedly at the end*

World Building – I was in. There was no point at which I thought ‘oh, really?’ I found it so easy to sink into, and I particularly enjoyed the weaponry. It’s reminiscent of our own history as human beings. Guns mucked shit up!

Writing style – Bardugo has such an enviable style. I loved her writing for some of the same reasons I fell in love with Laini Taylor. It’s beautiful, and striking, but not pretentious or over-reaching. You know? It crosses that gap between ‘too teeny’ and ‘poetic adult’ (if such divide really exists, but you get what I mean, right?)

Story – It gives you everything your secret heart desires. And then subverts it in such a wonderful way!

What didn’t work for me?

Alina – I liked her character. But I didn’t ‘love’ her. I feel like she might be a ‘grower’ and it’ll take some time for my to get attached to her. She asks a lot of questions during her internal dialogue and I found myself skipping those end-passages of a chapter when I saw too many of these: ‘?’

Mal – At first I loved him. The whole dynamic between him and Alina was beautifully wrought. But, then he changed. Lols. I dunno, he feels too ‘righteous’. It’s probably just me. This is the girl who fell in love with Lucius Malfoy, after all.

The Darkling – *sobs* This isn’t fair to put this in the ‘what didn’t work for me’ section, because it’s simply a case of badass story writing on the author’s part. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it! I so wanted him to do something crazy (apart from the crazy he’s already involved in). I wanted him to so some sort of sign…

But alas.

There’s still hope… *prays*

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I really, really enjoyed this book. I’m giving it a sucker-punching 4.5 out of 5. I’m not sure why I didn’t give it full marks. Maybe it’s because I haven’t become attached to the protagonist yet. But it’s almost there- a sliver away from perfection.

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Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

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The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (Penguin, 2013) Borrowed from my local library.

“After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker.

Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.”

Wow. This is one ambitious book. I think this fact works both for, and against it.

What worked for me?

Tone – There’s this overwhelming sense of hopelessness. It’s drilled into you from the first few pages. And even when you’re offered glimmers of hope, a chance at survival, it still feels futile. Improbably, at the very least. This might not seem like a ‘positive’ aspect, but I liked that. In a situation like that there is no room for sentimentality.

Writing style – Generally speaking I really like the way this is written. It’s gutsy and it’s far from being ‘basic’. For me, it feels like it dips into a literary style and I think that can be quite a gamble for YA lit. There is definitely something reminiscent of Margaret Atwood here. SF with a twist.

Multiple POVs – Usually I hate this technique with a passion. But something about it worked for me here. At first, I was confused (heck, I spent most of this book confused!) however, I think the change of perspective allows for a kind of break. A breather, of sorts.

Movement – I enjoyed the movement within this story, especially at the beginning. I liked the flash backs, the present action, the future left up in the air (Ha! Poor choice of words, all things considered)

What didn’t work for me?

Cassie – She didn’t come across very well. I struggled to find some kind of connection with her. She talks a big game, and that’s necessary for survival. But then she has these lapses and it’s like she’s a cliche american teen movie. Her comparisons often feel out of place. She draws parallels between things that clash, and not in a good way. And she has the tendency to be repetitive. The human race is doomed. I get it. Also, she’s a virgin. I’m not really giving away a plot point here because I think we’re reminded of this at least three times in the first hundred pages.

I think what did it for me was when she turns from gun-toting badass to gibbering mess. And why? A boy, of course. Jeez. Because us girls don’t have enough trouble with credibility as it is!

SF references – The problem with aliens is that it’s been done before. A lot. I appreciate that this book tries to acknowledge all of our own assumptions and creative responses to possible ‘life out there’, but for me it only serves to lessen the blow somehow.

Plot – It be cray! I think there was too much going on. Like I said above, it’s an ambitious book, but sometimes it was just too overwhelming. I was often confused, and I found the writing (as much as I liked the style) to be heavy on the ‘telling’ sometimes. There are a lot of ideas and themes being pushed into one story, and I felt like it needed to cut back a little.

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I admire this book. I’m not sure I can say I enjoyed it exactly, but I was stuck on reading it. I’m not sure it was great common sense on my part to read something that uses Ebola as one of its main weapons against humankind. Yeah, as if I needed another excuse to be a hypochondriac.

I want to give this book 4 out of 5 stars. And I think I will. It’s a weird rating because normally I’d give a book like this 3 stars at the most. But it’s got real balls, and as a writer, I have to admire that, and reflect that in my rating. It’s definitely got its flaws, however, it’s a tense read! I can’t say I’m itching to get the next book, but I will eventually, without a doubt.

GREAT cover art. xD